左回声 Left Echo is a collective based in Leipzig, Germany, campaigning to build solidarity with emancipatory struggles in China. They have sent us the message of solidarity below, to be read out on their behalf at our 5 April protest. They and Nationalismus ist keine Alternative (Sachsen) will be demonstrating Saturday 17 April at 14:00 on Augustusplatz in Leipzig – please join them if you are in the region!
Find out more about 左回声 Left Echo:
We send our solidarity to all you protesting today in London!
We are Left Echo, an activist collective based in Leipzig, Germany. Our group aims to inform about political struggles in Greater China and build solidarity within the political left. We are glad to see your commitment in fighting the persecution of the Uyghur and other predominantly Muslim peoples in North West China and happily contribute a statement to today’s protest.
Recently, we saw the European Union and Britain, as well as the US and Canada sanctioning a handful of Communist Party officials for their involvement in the CCP’s genocidal policy in the Chinese province of Xinjiang. We have to welcome this as a step in the right direction, as we have to welcome any action taken to change the desperate situation that the Uyghurs and other minorities are facing right now.
At the same time, welcoming the sanctions puts the critical mind in a predicament. Firstly, because the scale of the sanctions and the rhetoric accompanying them still show a failure to acknowledge and name the full scale of the human catastrophe under way in Xinjiang. And secondly, because the sort of human rights abuse allegation used to legitimize the sanctions obscure the involvement of the domestic economy in the processes in China. The human rights discourse tends to create an image of China as a place separate from Western countries and makes us believe that human rights violations naturally happen “there,” and not “here, where we are.”
The political left must challenge this idea, we must reclaim our minds from propaganda and dismiss the idea that Western governments generally have a positive impact on global society. In the light of the recent plans to tighten the regulations on immigration to the UK, this human rights discourse appears particularly hypocritical, all the more so if we consider the role of Western based transnational corporations in the exploitation of the people in North West China.
Companies such as UK-based Hewlett-Packard not only benefit from forced labour in their supply chains but also actively participated in developing the infrastructure in Xinjiang. This process of infrastructural expansion and economic integration was paralleled by increasing repression against the Uyghur people and other minorities. Today, these structures are part of the exploitative system that the central government and its collaborators within the private industry set up in North West China.
For this reason, the left should continue to target corporations that are active in Xinjiang. We must scandalize their compliance in the CCP’s genocidal persecution of the Uyghurs and hold them accountable. We have recently seen examples for how growing pressure makes companies change their policies and, for example, stop processing cotton produced in Xinjiang Province, or, at least, declare their willingness to do so. The prompt, forceful, and offended reaction from the Chinese government indicates not only that it sees its reputation severely damaged here, but also that such moves do hurt it economically, whereas tentative sanctioning of a handful individuals is a more symbolic step. This should encourage us to move on and take further action to raise the pressure on Western corporations that operate in North West China, directly or indirect.
We are fed up with companies such as Volkswagen, a company that allies with virtually every racist, oppressive, discriminatory regime to create profits. Giving in to growing pressure, they have “reflected on their role” during the Nazi reign, donating a little money to memorial sites now and then. Apparently, the voices criticizing them for their cooperation with the apartheid regime have not been loud enough, as by now, VW did not comment on its involvement in apartheid era South Africa. Today, they run a factory in Xinjiang. A few things in history can be relied upon.
Coming back to the human rights discourse, we see that the accusations of human rights abuses completely ignore these economic interconnections and try to externalize the horrors produced within the globalized capitalist system from the respective Western society. We can clearly see that the governments of nation states do not work in the interest of the people, especially not of people who are the citizens on an economic rival. Therefore, we need to keep a critical distance to all state action, promote our own framing of the mass incarceration of Uyghur and other peoples in China and connect struggles from below. Hoch die internationale Solidarität!